X - men sen då? Algebrans stora idéer från första klass till högre matematik : Med fokus på tidig algebra i Sverige

Sammanfattning: The overall aim of this thesis is to increase the knowledge of the state of algebraic thinking in the earlier years, so called early algebra, in the Swedish primary school. First, using the Big Ideas of Algebra (Blanton et al., Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 46(1), 39–87, 2015) as a theoretical framework, the thesis investigates which types of algebraic thinking can be identified in the Swedish mathematics curriculum and in two textbooks series for Grades 1-6. Second, as students’ understanding of the equal sign as a symbol for a relation is an important factor for algebraic success, students’ knowledge of it is studied by using an assessment form based on Matthews et al. (Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 43(3), 316-350, 2012).The results of the empirical studies show that Equivalences, Expressions, Equations, and Inequalities (EEEI) were the most prominent Big Idea in the Swedish context. The Big Idea of Generalized Arithmetic (GA) is not represented in the Central content in Grades 1-6 and only slightly represented in the textbooks. Furthermore, there are big differences between the two textbook series, both regarding the total amount of algebraic content and regarding how well each Big Idea is represented in the textbooks. As textbooks are important artefacts in Swedish mathematics classrooms, opportunities to learn early algebra in a classroom might depend on which textbook is used. Concerning students’ understanding of the equal sign, the study shows that they, in general, are able to describe the meaning of the equal sign as relational, but they are less able to use the relational structure of an equality. This implies that “the meaning of the equal sign”, which is part of the algebraic content in the Swedish mathematics curriculum in Grades 1-3, might be learnt as a definition by word rather than by its implications in mathematics. Besides the empirical contributions, the thesis also offers a discussion whether the Big Ideas can be found in mathematics at the university level and in research in abstract algebra and it is argued that algebraic thinking is present in all levels of mathematics, from early algebra in lower primary school to research in mathematics.